Clyde shipyards at risk – news by year end

BAE Systems has announced that, with short prospects of more orders when the two aircraft carriers for the UK Ministry of Defence are completed,it is looking to close one of its yards and will announce its decision by the end of the year.

BAE Systems owns three yards dealing with surface ships, two on the Clyde, at Govan and across the river at Scotstoun; and one at Portsmouth n the south coast.

It also owns a fourth yard, centred on submarines, at Barrow -in-Furness in Cumbria. Its building hall there – the Devonshire Dock Hall – is the largest in Europe,

However, it is the surface shipping yards that seem to be under threat, with Barrow having work on the rest of the new nuclear powered but conventionally armed hunter-killler Astute class submarines and no doubt hoping that the UK goes ahead with Trident II , with new submarines to be built to carry it.

The Clyde yards have completed their work on the first, Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier sections and are already working on the same two blocks for the second carrier, the Prince Charles.

Several issues would suggest that it will be one of the two Clyde yards to be closed.

There is the logic of taking out one of the two Scottish yards rather than closing Portsouth, its sole yard in England.

The possibility of Scottish independence is another issue. The drivers here are the imperative to maintain a high-level skills base in England, which would be lost if they closed Portsmouth; and the simple economics of keeping the UK pound in the UK in hard times rather than putting contracts to an independent Scotland.

This would not be an anti-Scottish move but a straightforward one of looking after the rest of the UK first – and Scotland would do the same were the positions reversed.

Then there is the convenience of Portsmouth, in the heart of the great south coast centre of the Royal Navy.

The Scottish Government should be preparing hard now for the fact that, at the year end, the news may be bad for Scotland.

With labour costs rising in competitor markets, it is a question of keeping the facilities and the capability alive in the Clyde against the times, which may not be too long coming, when there will be a more even competitive picture.

Scotland – independent or not, cannot afford to lose more of what is left of its heavy engineering base, in skills, in jobs, in GDP and in prestige.

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9 Responses to Clyde shipyards at risk – news by year end

  1. Given that the UK has reduced the operational fleet of the Royal Navy by two thirds since 1997 the writing has been on the wall for the yards as part of the UK for some time.

    Three years ago the Navy was warning that following the aircraft carriers it’s new tonnage requirements would be insufficient to commission one new ship a year.

    The Royal Navy’s inventory of ships and the rUK’s defence aspirations does not lend itself to a division of assets on Scottish Independence. As a consequence the type of Navy Scotland requires will involve the commissioning of new vessels.

    Independence coupled with quality products is the best guarantee to preserve the yards in Scotland.

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    • Graeme, it’s all very well saying that Scotland’s Navy will require the commissioning of the vessels, but what kind of vessels, and how many, and how long will their building last, and therefore the shipyards be kept open? And how are they going to be paid for? I don’t want to fund a Scottish navy. Does anyone as an alternative to funding much more necessary hospitals, schools, roads, etc., etc.

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  2. Watched an interview on tv news within last day saying Portsmouth is most likely candidate for closure due to the kind of short-term contracts the workforce has … easier to terminate than the clyde yard ones.

    quote from bbc news site The firm’s yard in Portsmouth is widely believed to be the most vulnerable, with 1,500 jobs at risk.

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  3. The funding of Royal Navy ships is via the government paid by us. I accept there have been cuts in government expenditure on projects. Surely when ships are not being built, there will be a surplus of money, what happens to that money, can it not be spent on projects which will create jobs and improve our quality of living.

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  4. It will be for the Scottish Parliament to approve Scotland’s defence requirements. In Denmark the main political parties review defence every ten years and signs an agreement to implement it.

    On the assumption that the Parliament wants to provide. Naval defence structure of similar capacity to Norway or Sweden then suitable vessels will be required.

    Sweden builds naval vessels at Kockums both for it’s own navy and has significant orders from other countries. Scottish yards will survive on the product they provide and the demand for them. The UK is in no place to fill the order book of BAE. Senior management of BAE has told me this regardless of the UK continuing or not. The aircraft carriers is increasing like the afternoon before the sunset which set over our cruise liner building after the QE2.

    BAE will diversify or may even be takenover. The UK’s golden share will turn to brass if the company can’t compete.

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    • BAE have demonstrated that they can’t compete for non-RN naval orders for 2 decades; their record is pisspoor, few sales in the 90s and none in the 00s. Any non-RN sales achieved post-independence will be an improvement. Even VT kicked their arse and VT were equally mediocre compared to other european yards.

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  5. The comment that :-

    ” Then there is the convenience of Portsmouth, in the heart of the great south coast centre of the Royal Navy ”

    together with the the final comment that Scotland –

    “independent or not, cannot afford to lose more of what is left of its heavy engineering base, in skills, in jobs, in GDP and in prestige” typifies to me exactly why we need independence.

    Our less than wonderful union has allowed the Scottish Defence industry in Scotland to decline year on year, and the addmission of Portsmouth as being conveneient and the heart of the great Great South Coast Royal Navy Centre reinforces that.

    Maybe the rUK would like to take Trident to the great south coast where maybe the RN should have placed it in the first place.

    Of course engineering excellence doesn’t only rely on a protectionist rUK and unless the rUK want to make enemies of us, which is not option, I think Scotland and the rUK will in truth get along just fine after all the hoary bull style fear stories are stripped away.

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